I wasn’t impressed with the first NAA mini-revolver I fired, a 1-1/8” barreled .22LR model. The useless sights, one-finger grip, and practical accuracy (I see target, I can actually hit target) of a lobbed potato added up to an expensive noise maker. Since then I’ve shot three of NAA’s plus-size models (hehe), the Pug, Black Widow (BW) and Mini-Master (MM). I’m a fan.
…but they’re the same footprint as an LCP!
That is a fact. We own guns for all manner of reasons, my favorite being “I need that.” A .22LR rifle is perfect for small game, teaching new shooters, and a wide range of other applications.
A reliable subcompact 9mm keeps the family safe while in town. A GLOCK 20 fends off predators (2- and 4-legged) while out hiking. A Galil Ace pistol with a folding brace is the best truck gun of all time; anyone that says otherwise is wrong and eats crayons. An LCP or the like fits in a pocket when the dress code or other factors don’t allow anything larger.
NAA revolvers have their niche, and for me that’s while working out in the yard or relaxing on the back porch with civilization miles away. I can pocket carry them at home, sit down for a meal with my wife across from me, and not have a 147gr HST round pointed at her with a cocked striker laying in wait.
The NAA’s half-notch, single action, and foolproof manual of arms mitigate the risk of a negligent discharge; I’ll accept and properly mitigate that risk in other ways when I carry a larger handgun in other circumstances (proper holster, proper clothing, proper movement). Other guns are always within a few steps’ reach at home, and the dog and other security measures ensure I’ll have a decent warning that I may need them.
What this isn’t: A formal review anywhere close to TTAG’s usual standards, nor a simple overview of material available on the NAA website. For additional information, please read Jeremy S’s review of the .22LR NAA revolver, his updates with laser-enabled accuracy testing, his 4” SideWinder review, or STB410’s AmmoQuest goodness with the BW: Speer GoldDots, Scorpion, and Hornady Critical Defense.
What this is: Some comparison and data comp of the three heavy underlug models, with commentary on practical uses for each. And some bragging on the pleasant Sunday afternoons I had slaying steel to test these out.
Note: The NAA-PUG-T features a Tritium front sight, the only night sight in NAA’s line-up. Opting for the NAA-PUG-D, a plain front white bead, drops MSRP to $328.
The three are mechanically and functionally identical, to include loading, unloading, disassembly, and reassembly. A toddler could figure it all out. Iron Cat Beast may need to read the manual.
The hammer, trigger, and caliber options are also identical. You can get all three in .22LR only, .22Mag only, or a combination that includes cylinder for both. For the extra cash, I highly recommend the combo cylinders. The Pug has a fluted cylinder, while the BW and MM feature smooth cylinders.
Every NAA mini-revolver I’ve shot has demonstrated supreme reliability with over 30 different brands/loads of ammunition. Any failure to fire is the fault of the ammo; the hammer strikes primers with authority, leaving a deep crease. Of the 2-3 misfires in over 1000rds among the three models, I waited a bit to avoid catastrophe, rotated the round and loaded it into a different firearm of another manufacturer to ensure it wasn’t the NAA’s fault. It never has been.
A sample of the ammo types fired, all with 100% reliability on the part of the revolver.
Additionally, I’ve carried the BW through some heinously sweaty, filthy, marathon lawn-mowing sessions. (Anyone have a tractor and shredder I could borrow?) I use an air hose to get all the dead grass and lint out. On a whim, I once fired a cylinder before cleaning it…5/5 went pew-pew. Despite my best attempts at abuse, none of the NAA frames have ever shown a hint of corrosion. Even Serge’s greasy commie palms can’t slow these down.
The fun part: Differences
The primary difference between the three are the barrel lengths. The Pug lives up to its ugly face-punched canine heritage with a 1” chopped snout, making it as concealable as your wardrobe (or lack thereof) allows. The BW and MM are better endowed.
Sights on the Pug are a large white dot out front, courtesy of XS Sights. A tritium front dot is available (PUG-T). Compliments the nature of the stubby pocket gun, I’ve never cared for XS Big Dots on full-size pistols, but it makes perfect sense given the pointy-shooty nature of the Pug.
The BW and MM feature white 3-dot sights on black steel posts, dovetailed into the frame. NAA offers adjustable sights on the BW and MM, but for the hard-knock life of hiking or yardwork I opted for fixed sights on all models. My BW is an earlier model sporting plain black serrated sights, though some white and orange sight paint on the front post improved their utility.
Grips on the BW and MM are significantly larger than the rest of NAA’s lineup, allowing a near full grip and contributing to excellent recoil management. The Pug arrives with a rubber over-molded boot grip, which I replaced with a set of Revision CV grips.
I have no doubt that all NAA minis are mechanically accurate. The devil is in wringing out that accuracy from a 1- or 2-finger grip. The Pug is easier to shoot than the tiniest of NAA models, and capable of ringing 6” steel plates at 10-15yds in slow fire; however, I consider it limited in defensive or small game acquisition roles to about 7-10yds.
Stepping up to the BW or MM’s usable grip, decent sight radius, and real sights allow consistent hits on 6” steel at 15-30yds. With the MM, I can hit a 12” gong at 50yds about 3/5rds per cylinder. A BW or MM could pop an errant coyote across the front yard or snag a cottontail for dinner; I wouldn’t waste the ammo out of a Pug.
Below are two example targets fired from the Mini-Master on sandbags at 10yds. The Black Widow fares almost as well as the MM out to 12yds; beyond that, the longer sight radius of the MM enables far greater stability.
Sidenote: Even the diminutive blast between the .22LR cylinder and forcing cone cut into my canvas sandbags. Adjust your grip accordingly.
Favorite Loads – Accuracy
All three models shoot most ammo pretty well, though in .22LR all models consistently favored standard velocity or subsonic loads. The MM shooting CCI Stinger was the only gun/hypervelocity .22LR combination that didn’t suck.
I certainly found some favorites while accuracy testing, shown below:
STB410’s testing of the BW highlighted Speer GoldDot as the best of the bunch for personal defense, and that’s been my carry load for the past couple years. The Guvner can think of it as “.22 Creedmoor” if it helps him cope.
Favorite Loads – Ballistics
I pulled NAA’s muzzle velocity data and averaged them across all bullet weights. Calculating muzzle energy would have normalized the different bullet weights, but I was more interested in the raw muzzle velocity—how much powder was burning in each barrel length? And I’m lazy. See below for the results:
Note: NAA does not offer Pug muzzle velocity test data, utilizing a magnum frame with a 1” barrel. NAA does offer 1-1/8” .22Mag data, which is close enough. For .22LR from the Pug, I used .22LR frame data from a 1-5/8” barrel. The slightly longer barrel offsets the slightly shorter cylinder length.
Every time TTAG posts an NAA-related article, I see comments mentioning shotshells (rat shot, snake shot, mother-in-law-shot…whatever you wanna call it). I tested some .22Mag CCI shotshells on paper: At 2ft, the shot spread about 5”; at 4ft it was 8”, and at 6ft it was 12-14”. At 6ft the shot was traveling so slow it bounced off the wooden target stand and peppered me. Eye pro, folks.
Next I shot some prickly pear pads after a good rain, so they were about 2/3” to 3/4” thick at the center. The shot failed to penetrate even that little once the muzzle was beyond 3ft.
Not content to have cactus prove shotshells worthless, I popped a 4ft snake with a .22Mag shot shell from about 7ft (YOU get closer!). It reacted like Steve Irwin (RIP) had tried to move in for a smooch…initially pissed, emotionally injured, but otherwise quite capable of striking back. I transitioned to a different handgun with a .22LR 40gr Velocitor round and achieved the desired effect.
Bottomline: .22Mag shotshells are useful for job security at CCI, nothing else. .22LR shot…that’s funny.
All three offer the essence of a kit gun: Stainless steel throughout, stout construction, and nearly the capacity of a much larger Ruger Bearcat. For every reason you’d carry that Bearcat, or a Beretta Bobcat (what is it with cats?), etc. into the woods, on a boat, in a (private) plane, or wherever your adventure leads, NAA’s chunky mini-revolvers offer the same ballistic options in a smaller, more concealable package.
The Pug is clearly the smallest of compromises, slipping into a pair of jeans’ fifth pocket. The anemic ballistics don’t instill confidence in fending off anyone but the softest-skinned of cowardly thugs, or pegging rabbits that wander up and start munching on the muzzle. However, I have carried it in a tux, tucked into the cummerbund where even an LCP wouldn’t have worked. The Pug has its rare moments of utility, but it mostly sits in the truck for the infrequent “I can’t believe I left my real concealed pistol at home” moments.
The BW is by far my favorite of the three. It offers a 22% boost in muzzle velocity and far higher practical accuracy over the Pug, yet still fits in a pocket. I carry the BW in situations that don’t involve civilization or animals that can eat me: Yard work, hiking and camping where bears and mountain lions don’t frequent, and default home carry. If the dog starts barking at a strange vehicle approaching or a particularly threatening jackrabbit, I can saunter to the nightstand or garage for a bigger artillery piece.
The MM is some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a rimfire handgun. That long snout is quite stable in the hand and subsonic or slower .22LR (such as CCI Quiets and Aguila 20gr) are almost hearing-safe. Popping clay pigeons as far out as I need in order to remind my brother I’m superior to him in all aspects of life is quite the afternoon. Alas, the MM is too large to fit in a normal pocket and a belt holster doesn’t work well with a camping pack, so for a mere 2-5% gain in MV I’m not dealing with it.
When NAA’s president calls me up tomorrow to ask my input on the perfect mini revolver, I’ll share this:
—BW frame and features
—Extend barrel to 2.75”, threaded 1/2-28 (I would audibly giggle)
—XS Tritium Big Dot (dovetailed, windage adjustable)
—Lifetime supply of .22LR Remington subsonics and .22Mag Speer GoldDot.
I’ll order three.
About the author:
If anyone confuses my informal use of .22Mag with .22WRF, slap yourself.